by David Tesitor
WALSENBURG- The Huerfano Journal has learned that Huerfano school district Re-1 has been officially informed by USA Partners that the district is being awarded a grant of up to $525,000 to begin construction of Phase II of the new sports complex. The USA Partners grant monies will provide the artificial turf for the playing surface at the new sports complex. This allocation of funds necessary to start the project opens the doors for other grants to complete the rest of the complex. According to Gaye Davis, Re-1 grant writer, “We have submitted grant applications for the surfacing of the track, the lighting, the buildings and the rest of the facilities.” Once those grants are approved, construction can begin for the rest of the complex. “We were just waiting for the USA money to arrive,” Davis continued.
The project was first envisioned in 2004 when the Walsenburg Middle School was closed and the funds from the sale of the building became available. The projected costs of the complex were estimated at 1.5 to 2 million dollars in 2004 and have now spiraled to just under 3 million. In December 2005, Huerfano Re-1 purchased a 37.22-acre site three blocks to the west of the high school to build their field of dreams. The site is large enough to accommodate a state of the art facility as well as to satisfy any future plans the district may have for growth.
Construction of the Phase I began shortly thereafter with the preparation of the land. This included a geophysical study of the land, a survey, design and engineering of the land, grading, installation of utilities, installation of the asphalt track surface, fencing and a gravel parking lot. Funding for Phase I came through grants from Great Colorado Outdoors (GOCO), the Department of Local Affairs Energy Impact Assistance Program (DOLA), USDA Rural Development, Huerfano County Parks and Recreation, and the school district, using money from the sale of the old middle school to the Library District.
Receiving the USA Partners grant monies means the work to begin Phase II can start by mid September. According to USA Partners, once they begin construction, the project should take six to eight weeks to complete. As of the press deadline, no time was given to the Journal when the funds will arrive. Everyone associated with the project expects the surface of the field to be completed by the end of the year.
Once Phase II is complete, the facility will be a state of the art facility with an all-weather, eight-lane oval track around the perimeter of the football and soccer field, seating for 1500 spectators on the home side and 400 on the visitors side of the field, a concession stand with restrooms, locker rooms, equipment storage facilities, lighting for multipurpose uses and an oversized parking area to accommodate large buses and spectator parking. The facility will also include a trailhead which links the state park with the walking trail outside of Walsenburg. Combining Re-1 use with the needs of the community was part of the master plan. When the complex is completed, the district can host local, regional, and state track and field events as well as rent the facilities to other area schools for their events. With twelve to twenty teams competing bringing in an estimated thirty-five to fifty members per track team with their parents, fans and staff, the city of Walsenburg will see an economic windfall, as participants will fill up restaurants and motels and spend their money in the downtown area.
The money to complete Phase II will come from grants, matching grants and community sponsors. No taxpayer dollars will be used to complete the project. According to Re-1 financial records, there is over $500,0000 in general improvement and facilities maintenance funds available, and it may be used as collateral to finance the estimated $200,000 the district needs to complete the ungranted projects.